Uber board member Ursula Burns: ‘I’m part of the 1%, and I still worry when I’m approached by a police person’

ursula burns ceo xerox

  • Ursula Burns, the first black CEO of a Fortune 500 company, called on companies to diversify their boards.
  • People have been calling on companies to look at their own racial imbalances, as national protests continue, following the police killing of George Floyd.
  • Several companies have issued statements in the past week regarding the protests and in support of the black community, but Burns said people must understand that there’s still so much progress to be made.

Uber board member Ursula Burns said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” that, despite having climbed the corporate ladder, many black executives like her still fear for their lives on a regular basis. Burns is the former CEO of Xerox and was the first black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

“I am part of the 1%, and I still worry when I’m approached by a police person,” Burns said.

Burns called on companies to diversify their boards order to dismantle racial imbalances more quickly.

“Before you even look at the companies, look at the boards. Most of the boards still have zero or one African American on board, and that, I think that pressure in that area, can help to speed up progress and transitions for companies.” 

“I think we really have to start looking more seriously at board composition and ensuring that we have the presence of difference on the board, a direct voice on the board,” she added.

Black leaders hold just 3.2% of executive and senior manager positions and less than 1% of Fortune 500 CEO spots, according to a December report from the Center for Talent Innovation.

Several companies, from Nike to Amazon, have issued statements in the past week in support of the black community, following the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Burns said people must understand that there’s still so much progress to be made.

“Companies must be interested, concerned, active, vocal about how their communities, how their structures in their communities are run,” Burns said. She added that companies could set diversity goals.

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, echoed those fears on Monday, when he told CNBC what happened to Floyd could have happened to him.

“What the African American community sees in that videotape is that this African American man, who could be me or any other African American man, is being treated as less than human,” Frazier said in a “Squawk Box” interview.

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